Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Surrey's online course, Communicating with Diverse Audiences. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsDORIS DIPPOLD: So, let’s look at an example which is taken from an English class.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsTUTOR: So, question four. Which of the following tenses is correct?

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 secondsSTUDENT 1: Simple past?

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 secondsTUTOR: No! That’s wrong! What about my friend next to her?

Skip to 0 minutes and 19 secondsSTUDENT 2: It’s the present perfect.

Skip to 0 minutes and 20 secondsTUTOR: Yes, it is.

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 secondsDORIS: Please note that the feedback, ‘that’s wrong’ on the student’s incorrect answer was delivered in quite a thundering voice. Like, ‘that’s wrong!’ Whenever I’ve discussed this example with students and also with teaching professionals, they suggested that the very direct feedback, the ‘that’s wrong’, could have been taken as quite offensive as there was no attempt made at softening the impact on the student. So, the teacher’s strategy here potentially violates the student’s sense of self-worth and seriously questions her competence. So, therefore, it could be seen as a serious violation of face. However, I’ve not been actually able to speak to the student in question. So, their perception of the event might’ve been quite different.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 secondsThen there’s the issue of the tutor’s way of addressing the other student as, ‘my friend.’ And that could also be seen as a threat to identity as the student may not be in the belief of being the tutor’s friend. It is worth saying in this context that the notion of face is not always only linked to individual identity. In some cultures, in particular Asian cultures, group or collective identities and relationships with others are very important and also under threat of being violated.

Face: an example

This short animation provides an example of a scenario where face is threatened.

Here, the way in which the teacher gives feedback to the student could be interpreted as a threat to face.

The teacher provides feedback very directly, without any softeners. The potential of face threat to the student arises from the fact that the feedback puts into question the student’s competence.

Subsequently, the teacher addresses the second student with the words ‘My friend’. This form of address blurs the role boundaries between teacher and student, which entails a potential of threat to face to the student as their role and identity in the encounter has not been acknowledged.

How do you feel about this teacher and their actions? In the comments, explain what prompts your thoughts and feelings.

How can the content of week 2 of this course (contextualisation cues, etc.) explain any differences between your interpretation and that of other learners?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Communicating with Diverse Audiences

University of Surrey

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: